I have been in and and around a certain 12 step program for a while now. I remember distinctly my first meeting and shakily sobbed out who I was and that I was an alcoholic. It was the first time I had said it out loud and the sound was shocking and I remember being very grateful for the other people in the room. I could feel that they understood and did not judge. I could feel them sending positive energy my way and it felt good… Until they started to talk about God.
As soon as God was mentioned, part of me shut down. I was desperate, but I wasn't that desperate. I wasn't going to listen to bible thumping. Well, I would listen but I would disregard politely.
I came out of rehab for the first time and went home, I came home hanging my head low and trying to fly under my family's radar. I was sorry, I was sad, I was angry, I was confused and I hated conflict. I went to IOP, I went to group therapy, I went to individual therapy, I went to marriage counseling and my husband had his own therapist. We both had an appropriate 12-step program. I got a sponsor; I started working the steps. I did service for my home group, I chaired meetings, I went on a 12-step call. I went back to school and after a year had the coursework done to become a certified addictions counselor (I got a 4.0).
Then I promptly relapsed.
I went back to rehab, this time to a special relapse unit where we would sit around in a circle and collectively hang our heads and say a downtrodden, “Oh, fuck.” This rehab was a little different. They told us the facts about our brains and our brains on drugs, but they also talked about our spirit. I don't know when it happened, but slowly, with loving firmness, they managed to pry open my mind. They talked about God, in general terms and I started to want to hear more.
I never grew up religious in any way. We went to Sunday School but it was more of a “everybody does it” kind of thing for my parents rather than something that they believed in and wanted to instill. At some point we were given the choice to sleep in and that was that.
There was an arrogance about my dealings with religion. I thought people that believed in God were simple, blind in their belief in something that you can't see and touch. Religion has been interpreted in so many ways and often not in the ways of good. So I dismissed it out right, because I knew more. I was more advanced.
Years later, and now in a more humbled position in life, I am less arrogant. I am much more open. I am just as confused though. For instance, I have experienced love, I can feel it but I can't touch it or hold it (unless it is in the form of my children and husband). You can't easily define it or put it in a box and it means different things to different people, but it definitely exists.
Now I look at people who ta;l about God and most of them are happy. I don't mean happy in a giddy, silly sense, but in a profoundly calm and serene sense. So what if I am wrong? What if there is something to this?
I have gotten to this phase where I can say I think that there is a possibility that there is some form of divine, some creative intelligence, some universal connectedness. But what is that called? God seems a very arbitrary name, someone else's conception that I can't quite put my arms around and embrace. I feel silly praying, I feel inadequate talking to God. I went back and forth about that for many months until it occurred to me to ask myself a series of “what if” questions.
What if my concept of God could be more approachable? What if I were able to have a conversation with God? What would it take for me to not feel silly? Who would tell me what I needed to hear that I could both respect and enjoy? What sort of being would set me at ease but be “no bull-shit”?
Slowly my mind went to a dusty, deserted highway somewhere in the sky. There is a neon flashing sign that says, “Eat at Joe's” over the top of mid-sized 50's diner. The sign hums and flickers and the “J” flashes on and off so sometimes it says, “Eat at oe's”. You can go inside and there are a few regulars there eating their “shit on a shingle” and “eggs sunny side up”. Joe is behind the counter wiping the surface down with a somewhat white rag.
Joe is a burly man in his mid 60's. He has salt and pepper wavy hair worn short. He is balding on top but he covers his pate with a white chef's cap. He has two visible tattoos. On his right arm is a green and blue and red tattoo that says “I love Bernice” with a heart representing the word love. On his left arm in black are the words, “Keep it Simple Stupid”.
He knows me by name and offers me coffee and a smile. I sit at the breakfast bar and check the menu even though I will always order scrambled eggs and corned beef hash. Joe knows this, but allows me this eccentricity and waits for me to tell him “the usual”. He turns around and starts to cook me breakfast and asks me how things are. I tell him what I am struggling with and I ask him what I should do. He looks at me from under his bushy eyebrows as he places my plate in front of me and says, “really Fiona?” He speaks with a Jersey accent for some reason. “This is the kind of question that, ya know, if you have to ask, you probably already know the answer.”
This is my concept of God – a burly short order cook from Jersey named Joe who reminds me that problems are actually pretty simple, life is pretty simple, and I already know most of the answers. I just have to get out of my own way and let my good shine through.
Joe bless you all.
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